Week 27/28/29 – Halaleva/Pahu

What’s up? Everything’s still the same here in the Kingdom of Tonga, which is good!

I had my first debate with an investigator. It was kind of hard to avoid because he started interrogating us almost immediately when we met him. His questions were obviously meant to trip us up and not out of his own curiosity. We were stumped on how to answer most of them, or at least could provide an answer but didn’t know where to find scriptural support. One puzzling idea he had was that if we really had the gift of the Holy Ghost, then we should be able to speak in tongues to him, because whenever the Holy Ghost fell upon someone in the New Testament they spoke in tongues. Anyway, at the end of our “lesson” the investigator challenged me to read the book of Acts. I’m glad he did because I ended up finding all the answers to his questions, though that wasn’t his intention. Had I just gone verse-seeking I would not have found them, it required reading multiple chapters in succession to receive a full answer which could not be contained in a single verse.

After reading Acts, I continued with the epistles of Paul. One impression I got while reading them is that the Bible actually does testify to the fact that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Christ’s restored church, in the same manner as it was during His ministry. As I picture Paul visiting and writing to the various congregations in Europe and Asia, giving correction where it is needed and making sure the church remains unified in belief and practice, all I can think of is our modern Apostles and Seventies visiting every little branch and mission in the most remote places of the world, simply continuing the exact same work undertaken by Paul.

This past week I have learned to love teaching kids. I used to dislike it because it requires a different teaching style and use of the language to ask questions and explain principles in a simple way that kids can understand. We have four investigators in the age range of 9-12 so I’ve gotten a lot more practice. At first we were teaching them separately but then we brought them all together for our lessons. This really helped the kids open up with their answers, and it made teaching way more fun. All four are getting baptized this Wednesday.

The language is still difficult. A couple weeks ago I sort of gave up on actively trying to study the language and settled with the idea that it will come eventually. The past few days I’ve been talking more so I think I’m out of that slump. I’m going to start afresh on my language study this week. It seems like every problem I run into comes from not knowing the language. They say missionary work shouldn’t be easy, but if I just had the language down the work wouldn’t even feel like work. Ah, it’s frustrating!

We switched MQs with the Sisters about three weeks ago (something about safety concerns because the member family that lived on the same property moved away so the Sisters were by themselves). Man, they really do give all the best stuff do the sister missionaries, haha.  We have a water heater for the shower, nicer mattresses, a huge closet, and even a microwave. The Sisters were a little angry about getting evicted from their luxury hotel but the order came straight from President Tui’one after he found out there was nobody else living on the property. They really care about the sister missionaries, haha. There’s also a scale here so I finally weighed myself, at a horrifying 210 lbs! It’s a little depressing but also comforting to realize it doesn’t bother me as much as I expected. Thankfully I was able to purchase some new tupenus to accommodate my growing body. If I keep up this trend of 30 lbs per six months I’ll come home at 300 lbs, haha!

It feels good writing in my blog for the first time in three weeks. There is something about getting your thoughts down on paper that makes difficult trials seem absurdly easy, like you’re reading someone else’s problems for which the solution is so obvious. Challenges are always funnier when they’re not happening to you, and writing a blog or journal helps you see the tragic humor in your own life from a third person perspective.

Long post to make up for the past few weeks! Ofa atu!

Week 26 – Halaleva/Pahu

The past two weeks Elder Teutau and I have been visiting all the members to get close with them and invite less-actives to church. We only received one investigator from the previous missionaries so we’re relying on the members to get us up to speed. Just the past few days we received four or five solid referrals so we’ll start contacting them this week. One of the wards seems pretty pumped to do missionary work. Nothing could make me happier!

I realized yesterday how much I actually enjoy testimony meeting (Fast Sunday got switched to the second week for some reason). One lady stood and bore a simple testimony based on Jesus Christ and the basic principles of the gospel. She stated that as a convert, if her testimony hadn’t already been founded on Jesus Christ then she probably wouldn’t be there in that meeting. I think recently I’ve been stuck on the idea that I have to learn new things to build new faith. As she bore her testimony, mine was strengthened too even though I had already learned from a young age everything she testified of. How great it is that we have a meeting where you can strengthen others by sharing your testimony and have everyone else add their own witnesses to what you believe.

Short post this week but I’ll certainly have more for next time. Ofa atu.

Week 25 – Halaleva/Pahu

map
New area: Halaleva and Pahu

I think I was more homesick leaving my first area than my actual home… haha. Combine leaving Vava’u with calling my family for Christmas and I was actually kind of bummed out the day of transfers. One Elder told me a lot of missionaries start crying when they have to say goodbye in their call home. No, I didn’t cry but it affected me afterwards more than I expected. It’s like the mission completely fills your life, and then the phone call home reminds you there’s a big piece missing and you feel a little empty when it’s over.

Thankfully my new comp and I hit it off super well from the start. Elder Teutau is a native Tongan just one transfer our longer than me. This is also a new area and his second, but he actually lived here until he was about twelve so he’s familiar with many of the people and places. Elder Teutau went to Liahona High School and studied “electrics” as he calls it. I can tell it’s his passion because he has three or four gadgets in the MQ which he either built or fixed. The coolest one is a portable water heater he made just from scrap parts. He also brought his guitar which he’s been teaching me how to play in our downtime.

Which reminds me, I finally got to play a real piano for the first time since the MTC. We found it while we were visiting members’ houses, so I played their upright for about twenty minutes and then talked with the mom. She said one of the boys started taking lessons but he was too lazy to practice (familiar story). It was so nice playing a piano with more than half the keys and the pedal working. I’m thinking we’ll have to focus on that family for investigator referrals so I can have an excuse to play more often.

It’s surprising how different Halaleva is from my first area. While we drove to our MQ for the first time I almost thought we were in a small American town because of how developed it is compared to Vava’u. I feel like the Tongan here is easier to understand too. A lot more people speak English and I think it influences how they structure their speech in Tongan. They also throw in more English words when it’s convenient. It’s pretty cool listening to the kids talk to each other in a mix of the two languages, using whichever one is easiest to communicate what they want to say.

I put my New Testament study on hold so I can read the Book of Mormon in Tongan. I’ve waited way too long to do that. To my relief it’s incredibly easier to read now than when I first tried a couple months ago, which is interesting because I didn’t do much Tongan reading during that time so I know it all came from speaking and listening to the language.

Feliz cumpleaños to my little brother serving in Nicaragua. Hopefully you got some cake.

Week 24 – Talihau/’Utungake

When I wrote last week’s post I felt like I couldn’t think of anything meaningful to say, so I just recorded my thoughts on what I had been reading in the New Testament. It turned out to be more relevant than I thought, because something that seemed impossible occurred. In the last week of the transfer we received two new investigators and baptized them at the zone baptism on Christmas Eve. The reason I consider it a miracle is that both of them don’t even live in Talihau, they just came to visit for an extended period of time, and they were both so spiritually prepared to receive the lessons and the ordinance of baptism.

One is a teenage girl named Lute who told us she had wanted to join the church for a while; we just had to teach her and make sure she was ready to be baptized. It was amazing how readily she accepted the truth in our lessons. She knew nothing about Joseph Smith or Thomas S. Monson before we taught her but she was already testifying about modern prophets in the next sacrament meeting.

The other is a man named Seniale who was not so immediately enthusiastic as Lute to be baptized. In fact when we started teaching him he wasn’t going to church and wasn’t in line with the Word of Wisdom. But he showed us his exercise of faith by listening wholeheartedly to our message and surprised us both by accepting and preparing for baptism so quickly. The members Lute and Seniale are staying with played a huge role by inviting them to church the Sunday before we met them and referring them to us for teaching.

Sometimes I wonder if I would accept our message if I was an investigator. I suppose I would be hard to convince because I’m pretty skeptical. I want to know the truth, not just hope or believe. But I know it’s not us who do the convincing; it’s the Holy Spirit. As a missionary you have to learn to trust that the Holy Ghost really will witness of the truth to your investigators, if they show their faith and act. It can get discouraging when you feel the Spirit in your lessons but the investigator remains unaffected. However it is such a welcome reaffirmation when someone actually listens with an open heart, allows the Spirit to testify to them, and shows you their faith by accepting commitments.

This was my last week with Elder Kau so we’re both really thankful we were able to experience this miracle together before we part. Thanks to Elder Kau for being a great comp, and see you again, Vava’u.